Over at College Football News, Pete Fiutak poses an interesting round table question that fits in with our debate with The Wiz last week on the podcast. His question is: Does the SEC deserve the benefit of the doubt in the rankings? You can read not only his response, but a few others from around the scout network here. My answer is below.
Answer: If you can unequivocally prove to me that the SEC is the best conference in the nation, by far, then yes they should get the benefit of the doubt. But since that will never be possible, then I can emphatically say NO!
I won't get into an argument with SEC fans over the strength of their conference, because I'm a bit too worn out to have an all out flame war, plus I do believe that over the past two years the SEC has been the best conference in the land. However, like most things in life and college football, that can go in cycles.
Some will not admit it, but the SEC does get the benefit of the doubt, and HAS the past two seasons. Look at last season for instance, Florida's only loss came at home against Mississippi, and let's not mention they did play an FCS team, while USC lost on the road to Oregon State. Was Florida really that much more deserving than the Trojans to play in the title game? I can't really say yes (even though Florida won). Plus they have a Conference Championship game. I think that is a huge benefit for the SEC and any BCS conference than has one.
And you SEC folks can throw around all the tough in conference games you want, but take a look at the Bowl Season last year where the Pac 10 was 5-0. Plus just look at who the Pac 10 schedules in their non-conference games. I love it when an underdog team pulls the upset, I also agree with teams having a warm-up game per say, but I also think teams should be rewarded (and demoted) for who they play out of conference.
The SEC coaches know they won't be penalized for playing 1, sometimes even 2 FCS teams in a year, so that is why they do it. They don't do it because they want to steal money from the fans; coaches and AD's do it because they know how the SEC is perceived and when questioned about their weak non-conference schedule, they'll just answer with: "But I play in the SEC and you know how tough it is to win there." It's like they have some sort of Jedi mind tricks going on and laugh about it.
The SEC gets the benefit of the doubt because of a few reasons. They have the most intense and some what insane fan bases in the south, and they have convinced a very influential high power (ESPN) that they are the greatest conference as a whole before the season starts. Look at the 2007 season, the ink had barely dried on Missouri and West Virginia's losses late in the season and ESPN was already talking about how LSU was a lock to be in the title game. A lock with 2 losses? Give me a break!
The SEC has a conference game which they do a great job advertising as a play-in game to the BCS Championship game. If other conferences were smart, they would do what they could to get a 12th team. The risk of having an undefeated team lose in that game is far outweighed by the exposure and potential gain by a 1 loss team in my opinion. So to make a long answer short, the SEC doesn't need to get a break, they already get one.